Workers from Habib Fashions convene at the SGSF offices after learning the factory had been closed

Workers from Habib Fashions convene at the SGSF offices after learning the factory had been closed

The Habib Fashions garment factory in Bangladesh is being urged to reopen, after claims it tried to block the registration of a trade union at the factory and subsequently shut down.

According to the IndustriAll global union, Dhaka-based Habib Fashions, which was a sub-contractor to many factories producing for international brands, including Fila, closed in August on the grounds of non-availability of orders.

However, IndustriAll affiliate, the Sommolito Garment Sramik Federation (SGSF), which had applied for registration at the factory, says Habib Fashions is instead trying to break the union and has orders beyond its capacity. SGSF also claims workers were forced to work from 6am till 10pm during Ramadan in June to fulfil orders on time.

"The owner of Habib Fashions must respect freedom of association and the fundamental rights of its workers, according to the laws of the country," says SGSF president, Nazma Akter. "I also call on the Government of Bangladesh to take immediate action in order to speedily resolve the issue."

According to IndustriAll, SGSF applied to register the union at the factory with the Joint Director of Labour (JDL) in Bangladesh on 30 June 2016. Due process of law was being followed, and the JDL had written to SGSF raising certain objections.

The SGSF was in the process of addressing the objections when the factory management met SGSF leaders on 19 July 2016 and asked that the application for union registration be withdrawn.

When they refused to do so, the union claims factory management began shifting machinery on the night of 27 July 2016 and declared a temporary closure to take effect as of August 2016. Habib Fashions has given no indication of how long the closure will last.

S.186 of the Bangladesh Labour Act makes it clear that "no employer shall, while an application for registration of a trade union formed in his establishment is pending, alter the terms and conditions of service of any officer of that union, without prior permission of the Director of Labour, to the disadvantage of such officer."

A letter from IndustriAll's general secretary, Jyrki Raina, urges Shahadat Hossain, managing director of Habib Fashions, "to immediately reopen the factory and provide the workers with regular work and wages.

"Furthermore, we call on Habib Fashions to establish sound and fair industrial relations, including negotiations with the Sommolito Garment Sramik Federation in full accordance with national labour law, and fundamental core labour standards."